Crushed: When Teen Relationships Turn Troublesome

A Girl with a Broken Heart

One in three U.S. adolescents suffers emotional, physical or sexual abuse from a dating partner. Sometimes, they just don’t know better.

“Parents play a very important role in teenagers’ lives by helping them create and foster positive, healthy relationships with dating partners,” said Monica Arora, MD, CHI Health child and adolescent psychiatrist.


“Be authoritative, not authoritarian or confrontational in your parenting style,” Arora said. “Avoid ultimatums and negative statements about partners.”

  • Model healthy relationships.
  • Share your values and traits of healthy relationships.
  • Create a safe/secure environment for teens to discuss relationship issues.
  • Help teens determine their own relationship expectations and values.


“Engage your teen in conversations about dating strategies. Empower them to remove themselves from uncomfortable situations,” Arora said.

  • Recognize gut feelings about relationships.
  • Develop problem-solving skills.
  • Seek positive peer influences.
  • Engage in extracurricular activities and positive social behaviors.


“Strike the balance of being present but not invasive of your teen’s privacy,” Arora said.

  • Set dating rules.
  • Limit unsupervised contact.
  • Restrict car use, phone use and access to money.
  • Keep tabs on their social media. <.li>
  • Get to know teen’s friends and friends’ parents.

Signs of an abusive relationship:

  • Mood – irritable, withdrawn, isolative, anxious.
  • Academic performance – declining grades, truancy, dropping extracurricular activities.
  • Appearance – appearance or weight changes, unexplained scratches and bruises.
  • Social circle – no longer hanging out with friends.
  • Behaviors – constantly checking phone, making excuses for partner’s behavior, drugs or alcohol use, acting out sexually, extreme jealousy or insecurity.

Monica Arora, MD

Psychiatry Child and Adolescent,
Psychiatry Child